You build a door affixed to the one you already have to challenge the ones who try to get in. You tap your chest nineteen times every day, more than once, for every time the crowded city bumps into you. You purchase forty-nine different thesauruses in order to find better words for gun control to try to solve the excess of bullets. You spin globes in your free time; you call this both exercise and foreplay. You grow an allergy to your reflection, but you research creams and pills to push you toward relearning the manifestation of your skin. You want to be seen, but you are afraid they will only notice the gain. You are told– on a Wednesday — by someone you knew back when skin was less rebellious — that we are far more than what is seen; our selves extend to the map of veins traveling within us. You are told that the potholes pressed against your body are a conversation piece and a link to being human. You are told that doors prohibit not just the bad ones from getting in, but the good ones too: the poets, the teachers, the lovers, the students, the historians and translators. You strap on a face mask and worker’s gloves, but forego tools. You want to feel your skin rip when you pull off door from hinges. As it tears, you tear. As it detaches, a piece of you does as well.
On the 4 train headed toward Utica, Brooklyn, I look up and notice an ad.
How to describe what should never be described? How to describe an advertisement that shames bodies and attempts to capitalize on a woman’s parts? How to imprint media’s peer pressure module to coax a woman to…..
For the low, low, CRAZY price of $3,900.
White woman in white tank top holds two clementines between white fingers against chest.
MADE IN NEW YORK, it says.
Same white woman in white tank top holds two grapefruit, one in each white hand, against chest.
“For other body modification, we also do liposuction, tummy tucks and Brazilian buttock lifts,” reads small print.
In the first photo with the clementines, the white woman is frowning. Her mouth is turned toward the floor as though an invisible wire had been threaded into each lip, causing it to droop.
In the second photograph with the grapefruit, the white woman is proudly showing off her white teeth. Her smile is large. Large like her breasts. After calling the phone number.
After emailing for more information.
After making an appointment and heading into the clinic to be cut into and accentuated.
I stare at this ad and then look around me to see if anyone else is noticing what I am noticing. How is this an emblem of NEW YORK, where we are a “melting pot” of so many types of bodies and minds and backgrounds and emotions.
Why would any of us want to pay the low, low CRAZY price of $3,900 to have a floatation device on our chests?
(That said, for anyone reading this, my intention is not to shame or dig at those who have chosen a breast enlargement. That is your right and your body and your money. I just think about how advertisements are crafted and the thoughts these images can leave us with.)
When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I stuffed my bra.
That’s not one-hundred percent accurate. I stuffed my undershirt, because I didn’t wear a bra until I was in high school.
My chest was flat like Delaware. Like North Dakota. Like the table I eat my breakfast, lunch, dinner on. My best friends called me: Mosquito Bites because…..(well, I think you get it).
I wanted a chest because they had a chest and so did Janet Jackson, who I had a deep crush on (a crush that extended to her brother, Michael as well).
I wanted a chest because I thought if I didn’t have one, something was wrong with me.
Because of Media. MTV. Billboards. Basically everyone around me telling me what a “woman” should like like.
This is what I was thinking about, upon seeing this advert on the subway.
I was also thinking that I certainly have altered my appearance to look/feel a certain way.
Would I pay the low, low, CRAZY price of $3,900 for any of these changes?
Every month, I dye my hair from what used to be titled dirty blond, to RED. I pay anywhere from $6-$12 for various tubes and developers.
When I first noticed this ad, I thought: What fruit would I want against my chest?
Kiwi? Lychee? Grape?
There is no hidden meaning to this ad and perhaps that is why I feel so impelled to write on it. Small breasts make you sad; big tits will make you happy.
How many other people have looked at this ad and wondered about their inadequacies? How many people eyeing this suddenly wondered if the fruit beneath their shirts were no longer good enough?
How many people?
How many other ads are just like this on other trains, over highways, interrupting television shows and in magazines?
What fruit are you?
notice the way stomach retreats like a hushed prisoner for over two hours and the way that hurts skin’s feelings
A woman walks on stage where even the microphone has a cup holder and she tells a story about her lifelong love affair with cake. Even when she speaks this word, her lips walk further away from her teeth, which part like you hope your lover’s thighs will, and you realize this is more than gluttony; this is true desire. The large, rectangular speaker hangs just above her to the left, projecting each word, which is never a whisper. She is not impersonating a vegan, nor bragging about how her latest cleanse makes her feel even more alert. She is emptying out her pockets, pressing hollow wrappers to the wooden stage. Calling out calorie counts like mathematical poems.
Her belly is soft. Not that I touched it. Not that I was close enough to brush against it. But the way her cotton shirt rubbed up against her stomach allowed me to see its suppleness. I realize I look at bellies a lot. I look at a lot of things, but especially this part which has never been soldier-like for me: firm, regimented and tough. My belly is more like a toddler: squirming and fidgety. It has never been flat, but I’ve also never had a routine to push it into a different shape.
I have a memory of kissing
a woman many women and as hands move toward my stomach, it suddenly becomes a turtle, retreating inward. I become king multi-tasker as I pay attention to the language of our tongues swirling and breath bending and skin melting, while waiting for that moment of her hand against my…
This is the moment where I suck it in. All of my breakfasts, lunches and dinners. The snacks and desserts. The second helpings. The late night binges. The sneaky spoonfuls. And as I find somewhere else to put my belly she says:
Why are you doing that? Let it out.
And I wonder if her noticing means she does it too?
There are certain parts of our body that society wants to be flat, while other parts are asked to be rounded out. And I want to request a recall of these expectations.
I, too, like cake. And when I go to a restaurant I like to look at the dessert menu first to see what I am working towards. When I am eating a meal, I am often thinking about the next one. I do believe we have set too many boundaries on eating.
Maybe we just need to talk about it more.
When this woman told her story, I laughed because it felt like mine.
What happens from birth to the beyond-years where food becomes some kind of enemy or the friend that you are really close to, then get jealous of and start gossiping about and then ignore and then lose contact with. What I mean to say is:
we aren’t I’m not being honest here. I’ve got some food issues. I’ve got an eating disorder or, disordered eating. There is some chaos in my body, in my eating habits, in the ways in which I qualify my meals.
we I just need to leave my belly where it is.
* * *
utilize flaps of skin like extra pockets to place grocery lists and recipes
memorize the texture of cellulite
bounce of kernels
un-popped beneath skin